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stars, hide your fires

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“Iker,” says David in what he obviously thinks is a stern, commanding tone. It doesn't work because Iker knows he's making the face to go with it, possibly watching himself in the mirror. Probably. “I know you're sitting at home, reading books and watching bad Spanish soap operas. There's no use being ambiguous with me.”

“You don't know that,” says Iker, smiling and flicking the TV onto mute. “I could be in, say, the bathroom at a party. There could be a supermodel on my lap right now. Also, ambiguous, you fucking hypocrite? Have you been reading the dictionary again?”

“It always hurts when you're surprised by my intelligence," says David sadly. "And it's one in the afternoon there, you fucker.”

“So,” says Iker.

“So.” David sighs patiently and puts on his dad voice. “This argument is completely pointless, because you know you're coming to see me.”

Iker doesn't say anything.

“Right?” asks David after a silence.

“Yes,” says Iker; heavy, drawn-out, and completely belying the lightness creeping through his body as he tips his head back and smiles at the ceiling.

 

Iker touches down at 4.30 on a balmy L.A. morning, the city lights twinkling like stars against the still-dark sky as he peers blearily through the plane window. David's waiting for him, smiling behind huge celebrity sunglasses and twirling his keys around his finger.

“You look stupid,” is the first thing Iker says to him, plucking the sunglasses from his face. “It's still dark.”

“I missed you too,” says David, tugging Iker's suitcase from his grasp. Iker follows him to the car, watching David's knuckles white around the handle of his luggage, his jeans creasing behind his knees each time he takes a step, his hair tickling the nape of his neck. He kisses David before he climbs into the car, just a brush of his lips against the skin beneath his ear. David blinks when he pulls away and says again, whispers, “I missed you, too.”

 

David drives them to his place first. “Vicks is making breakfast for you,” he says carefully. “She liked Spain. You.”

“That's nice of her,” says Iker.

David shrugs. “She's nice,” he says. “You really should stay with us. We've got so much room. Waste of money, staying in a hotel.”

Iker raises an eyebrow.

“Yeah, okay,” says David. And after a pause, “I have to ask, you know, you're a guest.”

Victoria's got breakfast laid out when they get there. Real coffee and orange juice and cereal and toast and she's even got churros, all arranged artistically on the table. She smiles at Iker and kisses his cheek and asks how he's been, and flutters about, pouring coffee and passing plates and asking anxiously if the food is alright. Iker smiles and nods and compliments her efforts, and feels a heavy, pressing guilt overwhelm him wherever he looks.

 

He doesn't say anything in the car on the way to the hotel, just leans his head against the window and closes his eyes. David glances over at him and says, “Don't.”

“How,” says Iker.

David shrugs. “Your hotel is beautiful,” he says. “I've stayed there before.”

“David,” says Iker. “I don't-- ”

“She's leaving. Day after tomorrow. Going home to see the family.”

“Oh,” says Iker. “Okay.”

There's a silence. David drums his fingers against the wheel. Iker opens his eyes and centres himself on the seat. “I can show you around,” says David. “If you like. There's shops. Nice beaches. Celebrities.”

“There are shops in Spain,” says Iker. “And nice beaches. Celebrities, too.”

“Oh,” says David. “Yeah, I guess.”

“No David Beckham, though.”

David doesn't say anything for a moment, just stares intently at the road. The tyres are loud, too loud, on the asphalt. Then he smiles and says, “Too bad for Spain, hey?”

Yeah, thinks Iker, turning to look out the window again. Too bad for Spain.

 

Iker wakes sometime in the early evening and blinks, disoriented, at the unfamiliar ceiling.

“Hey,” mumbles David against his shoulder, shifting noisily. “You fell asleep.”

“Wow,” says Iker. “We didn't fuck.”

David laughs and rubs a hand over Iker's belly. “The night is still young. Actually.” He stops.

“What,” says Iker.

“There's this party,” says David. “Friend of mine.”

“Who, Tom Cruise?” Iker snorts.

“No,” David scoffs. “George Clooney.”

Iker raises an eyebrow.

“It could be fun,” says David.

That's how Iker ends up in a real, honest-to-God Hollywood mansion, clutching some ridiculous cocktail David ordered for him (“Sex on the Beach,” he said with a wink) and feeling more out of place than he has in, well, ever.

“David,” he says, eyes cutting across the room, “The fuck-- ”

“Oh look,” says David, clutching his elbow and flashing a smile, blinding. “It's Tom!”

“If he tries to convert me to Scientology,” mutters Iker as David hauls him across the room, “I am leaving.”

“He's actually really nice,” says David, and “Hey,” to Tom.

“David!” Tom grins, wide and white. “Who's your friend?”

“My mate Iker,” says David, smiling. “From Spain.”

“Oh, soccer?”

“Football,” says Iker, taking the hand Tom offers him. “Yes.”

“Soccer, buddy, you're in America now.” Tom laughs, the ratio of teeth to face now frankly frightening, and claps Iker's back. Iker grits his teeth. “Well, you two have fun. Say hi to Vicks for me.” He grins again and wanders off.

“I don't like him,” says Iker immediately, watching his retreating back through narrowed eyes.

“Of course you don't.” David sighs.

Iker tips back his cocktail and hands the empty glass to David. “I'm going to find a real drink,” he says.

 

David finds him an hour later, sprawled on the grass with a girl in his lap, all flyaway blonde hair and protruding bones. David hums and pulls her off, arranging himself next to Iker. “I see you found some real drinks, then.”

“Thanks,” says Iker. “I couldn't-- she wouldn't stop talking.”

David laughs. “You don't want to talk?”

“I want to fuck,” says Iker suggestively, leaning in close. “You,” he clarifies.

David pushes him away.

“Okay,” says Iker. “Can we leave?”

“Sure,” says David.

“Can we fuck after we leave?”

“You're drunk.” David climbs to his feet and holds out a hand to help Iker.

“Not very,” says Iker. “Take me to one of your Californian beaches, David fucking Beckham. We can have sex on the beach, just like you wanted.”

 

“You don't like L.A.,” says David, watching Iker's arm where it's slung over his waist and curling his toes in the sand.

“Not really,” mumbles Iker.

“It's okay,” says David. “I didn't think you would.”

“Doesn't matter,” says Iker. “It's still nice.”

“Yeah,” says David, turning his head and contemplating the cut of moonlight across Iker's cheek. “Nice.”

 

“So, like, we can't have sex the entire time you're here,” begins David.

“You sound too American,” says Iker. “Stop saying 'like.'”

“Whatever,” says David. Iker rolls his eyes. “Isn't there anything you want to see?”

“I don't know,” says Iker dismissively. “Not really.”

“Well, pick something.” David crosses his arms.

In the end Iker picks Disneyland.

“Disneyland,” says David. “Seriously?”

Iker shrugs. “It's American,” he says. “I've never been.”

“Okay,” says David.

It's better than Iker was expecting. This, especially: David at the pinnacle of the rollercoaster, windblown hair and bitten lips, eyes crinkled into a smile and fingers curled tight around Iker's wrist. He laughs, suddenly, just before the drop, loud and carefree, and shouts, “Fuck, I love this ride.” Iker kisses his cheek and smiles against the skin there, and doesn't reply like he would if this weren't David fucking Beckham, and football was just a sport they watched on TV.

 

Victoria invites him over for dinner the night before she leaves. It's dazzling, the way she chats incessantly and leans over to check the boys, wipe their mouths and fix their collars, and touches David's wrist between smiles and leans almost intimately towards Iker, firing questions as quickly as she tells her stories.

“It was nice to see you again, Iker,” she says when he's leaving. She looks tired behind her smile, a touch of dryness exuding like the bones from her skin.

“You too,” he says, kissing her cheek and pressing his fingers to her arm.

He turns his head as David reverses the car and watches her usher the boys back into the house, tiny shuffling steps in her high, high heels.

 

David invites him to dinner at his empty house.

“Kentucky Fried Chicken,” says Iker, poking dubiously at the bucket. “Seriously?”

David shrugs, starting on the food. “It's American,” he says. “You wanted to go to Disneyland.”

Iker opens his mouth, then closes it again. At least David's opened a bottle of expensive Californian wine. It's good; rich and heady in his mouth.

“So, did you like it?” asks David when they're finished, tucking the empty containers into each other.

Iker frowns. “If I get kicked off the team for being too fat, you're calling to explain how it was all your fault.”

“That means yes,” says David smugly.

Iker pretends not to hear and holds out his glass for more wine. “I like this,” he says.

“Hmm,” says David later. He's crawled into Iker's lap, arms twisted around his neck and wineglass still cradled loosely in his hand. “Taste's better like this.” He kisses Iker, wet and lingering, and pulls back to finish the last of the wine.

“All gone now,” says Iker, kissing him again.

David bends to mouth at Iker's collarbone. The glass sits dangerously light on his fingers.

“Don't,” says Iker. “Here.” He sets David's glass on the table and then pushes him onto the floor, lays him out and fucks him, slow and clumsy and warm.

 

“Do you have countryside here?” asks Iker around dawn, a tired mumble against David's skin.

“Of course we have countryside,” says David indignantly. And then, “Oh.”

Iker laughs and tenses his arm around David's waist. “I don't like L.A.,” he says.

“No.” David sighs. “I know.”

“Well then,” says Iker.

 

“Do you know where you're going?” asks Iker after three and a half hours.

“Not really,” says David. “Do you mind?”

“Not really.” Iker shifts onto his side so he can see the countryside blurring through the window. “I'm going to sleep, okay?”

David hums and tightens his hands on the steering wheel.

When Iker wakes it's starting to get dark and they've left the highway, crawling slowly along a narrow road.

“I don't know where we should stay,” says David, glancing over at him.

Iker sits up and looks around. “Here,” he says.

“Here?” David looks dubious.

“Why not? It's warm. Just find somewhere to park.”

David considers, head tilted, then shrugs and pulls onto the side of the road. “Okay,” he says.

Iker shakes his head and climbs onto the back seat. He looks at David. “I'm too tired to fuck,” he says. “Sorry.”

David smiles. “It's okay. Can I sleep with you?”

Iker looks at the lines creasing the corners of his eyes, his fingers gripping the shoulder of the seat. “If you want,” he says, and falls asleep with David's weight heavy against his chest, clutching at his hip.

 

When they wake David looks at him and says, “Shall we keep going?”

Iker nods and sits up, lets David mouth sleepily at his neck; it's dawn and there's no one around.

They stop for lunch at a gas-station diner, tiny and run down. David dodges the petrol stains on the asphalt as they walk in, smiling over his shoulder at Iker.

“This is American,” says Iker appreciatively to his burger and fries. “Like in the movies.”

“You'll get fat,” says David.

“Shut up,” says Iker, flicking a fry at his cheek.

Outside, David squints at the sun and says, “Was there anything else you wanted to do?”

Iker looks at him. “What do you want to do, David Beckham?”

David tilts his head. “I want to keep driving,” he says.

“Then keep driving.” Iker touches a finger to his cheek.

So they do. They stop at diners and beaches and motels, and Iker deliberately doesn't count the kisses in the shadow of the car, the messy handjobs in gas-station bathrooms, or the fucks, tired and lulled beneath flickering fluorescent lights.

 

On the fifth morning David leans against the side of the car and says, “I think we should start heading back.”

Iker says, “Yeah,” and climbs into the car. He's tired, a soft drowsiness like summer afternoons in Spain. He doesn't want to go back to L.A.

The trip back is shorter and more irritating, the glare of the sun too bright, David's driving too slow, the food at the diners too greasy.

When they get into the city Iker says, “My flight leaves tomorrow.”

“Oh.” David glances at him quickly, then back at the road. “You didn't tell me.”

Iker doesn't answer.

 

His plane leaves at 4.30 on a balmy L.A. morning. David likes the symmetry of it. He helps Iker pack and drives him to the airport, sitting still behind the wheel after he's parked. Iker can't see his eyes behind the ridiculous sunglasses, but he turns his head to the side and says quietly, “Thanks for coming.”

Iker shakes his head and pulls the sunglasses from his face. “You look stupid,” he says.

David's lips twitch and he says, “I know. I thought it'd help if you didn't want to be sentimental.”

“I don't like L.A.,” says Iker after a silence. “I hate Tom Cruise. I never even met George Clooney. You don't have proper drinks here, and your food is too greasy, and no one-- ”

David kisses him, like Iker knew he would, and he kisses back and smiles against David's mouth and says, when he pulls away, “I still had a good time.”